Saturday, 29 September 2012

a weekend in nathia gali

governor house walk

in nathia gali the air still remains crisp although it does not have the clarity is used to. the smell of the pines is a mere whiff. it doesn’t retain the pungency of my childhood but then recollections are always more vivid than real life itself. my memories of this hill resort are of pakoras smeared with a thick chutney made from anar dana, desperately yellow pound cake and peppery chicken sandwiches made with bread that was soggy in the middle and dry around the edges. in summer nathia gali provides a welcome respite from the heat of the plains and at a time when pakistan is in the throes of dire energy crisis, it was just what we all needed. my favourite season to visit though is towards autumn when the mist settles amidst the trees softening the sharpness of the pine needles. mama has images of this season on her blog. it makes me wistful.

pakora's for tea time
our trip to nathia gali was the first family vacation we have had in years. but when we were little it was one of our most frequent often with a group of family friends. we would be packed into cars with bottles of dramamine for children who had motion sickness. the road leading up to nathia gali is long, winding and narrow. diesel fumes from large trucks poison the air. it used to make my stomach churn.

on this trip we had rented an incongruously named ‘beach hut’. the cottage was self-catering which meant that we would be cooking for ourselves. much shopping took place to stock our icebox including the removal of chewbacca who had decided that it was the perfect place to have a siesta. by the time we packed it seemed like we had enough food to feed an army - tea, fresh coffee, a cafietiere, a tin of cardamom laced evaporated milk, chocolate, mini-steaks, the ingredients for gumbo and dainty little lemon tarts from united bakery. these lemon tarts have the most subdued lemon flavour but they have remained a family favourite since i was little and so they continue to make an appearance on our table.

chewbacca napping in the ice box
lemon tarts from united bakery
the yusuf men took over the kitchen for that weekend. m made a gumbo fit for carnivores as it was heavily studded with rounds of sausage, shrimp and bite sized pieces of beef. sunday brunch was made up of mini steaks seared in plenty of butter and a colourful scramble of cheesy eggs. on our last night there baba made a medley of vegetables lacquered with butter. but as much as i love my family’s cooking, my favourite breakfast in the mountains is a salt-flecked paratha with cups of sweet milky pakki chai. the latter is a tea that is cooked till the milk thickens slightly. it is sweetened as it is cooked and is like dessert in a cup. i had this breakfast at kohtwal restaurant as we made our way back to islamabad. it was a cold morning and the air around the restaurant smelt of wood smoke, which is used as fuel for cooking. we were served paratha’s hot off the tava with a sprinkling of salt.

the yusuf men in the kitchen
paratha in the making
paratha in the making
paratha in the making
paratha with a sprinkle of salt
pakki chai

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